Local gardeners fill new free food pantry

T-R PHOTO BY TREVOR BABCOCK Master Gardener Coordinator Chelsea Llewellyn with the new food pantry containing free produce grown by local gardeners. The pantry is located at 2608 S 2nd St.

Free and fresh produce is available at a new food pantry in Marshalltown.

Provided by the Marshall County Master Gardeners Club, the pantry is filled with produce from the club’s gardens around Marshalltown with plans to keep the box well-stocked throughout the growing season. Plus, the pantry contains growing materials and seed packets for people to grow their own produce.

The pantry is also open for donations, so anyone with extra produce from their garden or wants to give dry goods can bring them to the pantry at 2608 S. Second St.

The pantry currently has a supply of fresh lettuce and raspberries, which is some of the early-crop being picked at this time in the growing season.

Master Gardener Coordinator with the Iowa State University Marshall County Extension Office Chelsea Llewellyn said she pitched the idea to club members in April who immediately started on the project.

With a number of food pantries being available on the north side of Marshalltown, such as the Emergency Food Box and House of Compassion, the club wanted to open up something for those on the south side of town.

Club member Gary Fulton was among those who helped build the food pantry and also volunteers at the Emergency Food Box in Marshalltown. He said he didn’t know how great the need for food was in Marshalltown until volunteering at the Emergency Food Box and seeing the demand firsthand.

“That was kind of an eye opener to see how many families and individuals were having a need for food,” he said. “That was probably because of the derecho and the pandemic and everything increasing the need for food, but there are families in town and individuals in town who are in low income situations or who are unemployed and definitely need a food source.”

He said the Master Gardener’s Club is always in need of more volunteer members and of donations for the pantry.

Llewellyn said there are about 35 active Master Gardeners recording volunteer hours in Marshall County and the numbers are growing every year. She said gardening supplies flew off the shelves during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the Master Gardener course is becoming more popular because I think people are really looking for something like that to fill the downtime in their life,” Llewellyn said.

She’s also seen the ages of members become more diverse over the years. The club used to be heavily populated with retirees, but now ages range from 25 to people older than 70.

To become a Master Gardener, applicants must take a 40-hour training course in the fall during the course of a couple months. After training, the applicants start an internship year where they must complete 40 volunteer hours. Once an applicant becomes a Master Gardener, they still must complete 20 volunteer hours and 10 hours of education per year.

Master Gardeners in Marshall County volunteer at the Central Iowa Fairgrounds, local libraries and Marshalltown schools growing gardens both to beautify the area and to grow produce for donations.

This year’s application deadline for the Master Gardeners program is July 1 and can call the ISU Marshall County Extension Office at 641-752-1551 for more information.

Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-751-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com.


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